In 1990, as a grad student at Roosevelt University, I won the McGraw-Hill Award for a white paper I authored on the disruptive effect of digital publishing (then “Desktop Publishing”) on B2B marketing. At the time, I thought the paper was pretty good and the prize money really came in handy, but over the years, I appreciated more and more the wisdom of the committee that selected it; because the thesis relates to all disruptive technologies in marketing communications – past, present, and future. The last line of the paper stated, “The tools may change, but the craftsmen will remain the same.” Today, does this include social media as well?

In the early 90’s, Macintosh changed the landscape of marketing communications. Typesetters and film houses were dropping like flies and marketing managers were actually quoted as saying to their agencies, “We don’t need you anymore. We have a Mac and a secretary. We’re taking our work in-house.”

In retrospect, it sounds naïve to think that technology can completely replace talent. But look at what’s happening in social media today.

Before the dawn of social media, there was a concentration of publishers and news professionals who found, verified, analyzed, and reported news. It was a craft driven by rigorous training and innate talent, very much like the allied marcom/creative businesses. Millions of consumers trusted the facts, opinions, and analysis of these relatively few elite professionals.

Today, the tables are turned: everyone is a publisher. And the questions loom − who’s gonna read all this stuff, and how much is even worth reading?. Twitter. Blogs. Facebook. MySpace. LinkedIn. And what about all the distractions and loss of personal and professional productivity that result at work, home, and even in the middle of physical conversations?

Too many publishers, not enough readers

Royal Pingdom1 reports that in 2009, there were 126,000,000 blogs posted on the Internet (as tracked by BlogPulse). Compare that to the world stock of original books published in all of history is estimated to be between 74 million books and 175 million books (you can read how this estimate was made at: http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/research/projects/how-much-info-2003/print.htm#books). Add to the blog population:

  • 20 billion – Number of tweets on Twitter (since March, 2010 alone, 10 billion)
  • 57% – Percentage of Twitter’s user base located in the United States
  • 5.36 million – People following @aplusk (Ashton Kutcher)
  • 5.45 million – People following Brittany Spears on Twitter
  • 488 million – People on Facebook

Will it dumb us down?

With this volume of new, unqualified information being dumped into the Internet every day, what is the fate of the micropublisher and what impact will he/she will have on brand marketing? Will markets fragment into infinitely smaller pieces, giving one-to-one marketing a new definition? Will social media find its niche in customer service and consumer advocacy? Will we swing back closer to the old model in which we’d rather consume less quantity, higher quality information?

At the end of the day, the tools may change, but the craftsmen will most likely remain the same. How might this affect the way you use social media in business? Blog it here.

1http://royal.pingdom.com/2010/01/22/internet-2009-in-numbers/

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